Arizona Supreme Court ruling to allow marijuana measure on ballot
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Arizona Supreme Court ruling to allow marijuana measure on ballot

PHOENIX — Arizona voters will get to decide if they want to be able to use marijuana recreationally.

In a brief order Wednesday, the Arizona Supreme Court rebuffed arguments by foes of Proposition 205 that both the summary of the initiative and the text itself was too flawed to send to the ballot.

Chief Justice Scott Bales said Arizona law requires only that ballot measures be in “substantial compliance” with legal requirements. And he said Prop . 205 fits within that definition.

While Wednesday’s ruling clears the way for a vote, it may not end the legal problems for the measure.

Challengers point out a constitutional provision requires any new program created by voters to have its own new source of revenues.

While the initiative will create a 15 percent tax on sales of the drug to fund enforcement, it will have to borrow money initially from a separate pre-existing account that regulates medical marijuana.

The justices, however, sidestepped that issue, saying it is not legally “ripe” to argue. Bales told challengers they can raise those objections if the measure is approved in November.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, one of the leaders of the anti-205 campaign, said while foes hoped to knock the measure off the ballot and avoid the fight, they are ready for it. And he predicted that once voters know all the provisions they will reject it.

The heart of Prop. 205 would allow any adult to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana without fear of prosecution under state law.

That is a big change from the 2010 voter-approved medical marijuana law. That limits possession and use only to those who have specific medical conditions, a doctor’s recommendation and a state-issued ID card. The most recent reports from the Arizona Department of Health Services show only about 100,000 of those cards have been issued.

As with the medical marijuana law, Prop. 205 would limit sales to state-licensed dispensaries. The about 90 existing medical marijuana dealers would get first opportunity at the 147 licenses for recreational sale initially available.

Montgomery acknowledged that if the only issue before voters were legalization for recreational use the measure might be approved.

He said, though, Prop. 205 would make many changes in the law that voters might find alarming. And Montgomery said the goal remains to educate voters to those effects.

Wednesday’s high court action came just hours after a trial judge ruled that Secretary of State Michele Reagan had incorrectly explained at least one element of the measure.

Arizona law requires Reagan to prepare a description for voters of what any ballot measure will do.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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